Rural Chile – Chillán

May, 2011

Decided to bus it from Pucón to rural Chillán not only to break up the route to Santiago, but also to see the famous Mexican Murals and experience the renown Termas de Chillán (hot springs) in this area.


Chillan, ChileThe Tur-Bus (CH$7300) from Pucón to Chillán takes about six hours travelling on Route 5, which is a smooth highway. In South American terms, six hours is a short bus journey.

You need to change buses at Los Ángeles, which is almost four hours into the journey, before setting off again for the last leg to Chillán, about a couple of hours away.

Most of the long-distance buses stop at Terminal Maria Teresa (O’Higgins 010), which is also where busses from Pucón stop.


Not really on a foreign tourist’s to-do path and located at the centre of the country, founded in 1580, the city of Chillán is about 400 kilometres south of Chile’s capital, Santiago.

shoe shine, Chillan, Chile
Shoe shine on the way to work

If you are into skiing and snow sports, then you won’t be disappointed with Chillán.

About 82 kilometres away from the city, mountain-style resorts and hotels are surrounded by excellent snow quality amongst beautiful native forests. This region also offers wonderful spa services, as of course, this is the home of hot springs.

The region in which Chillán is built, also sees much seismic activity.

Evidence of last year’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake about 100 kilometres away on Chile’s coast, is still fresh in this city. Wander around and it won’t be long until you bump into cracked buildings, ruptured footpaths, and broken facades. And so, Chillán is continuously rebuilt, due to the numerous earthquakes occurring in this city.

Chillan, Chile, park
Street life

The city is also famous locally as the birthplace of the founding father of the republic: Bernado O’Higgins. As with many towns and cities in Chile, you’ll come across a Bernado O’Higgins street, road, or lane, in honour of Bernado.

Quite small for a Chilean city with a population of only around 175,000, there is everything you need here and locals are friendly.

The wettest months for Chillán are between May to July. As we’re in May, we are lucky on this visit as the sky granted us a few sunny days. A lovely change especially after the downpour experienced in Pucón, whilst waiting for the ascent of Vulcán Villarrica.


St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral, Chillan, Chile
St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral

Apart from the Mexican murals and the Termas de Chillán (hot springs), I don’t know much about what else this city offers a visitor as there isn’t much information. So, decided just to walk around and see what we could find.

After walking around Chillán for a few days seeking out some sites, discovered that most were either shut, abandoned, or under repair. Sadly, this is a result of the earthquake last year (2010).

Unfortunately, the Mexican Murals were also closed, which is very disappointing as this is one of the main reasons for visiting Chillán. Also because I love murals and any street art really; especially in South America, as street art is particularly impressive and often politically charged, which provides an insight of what’s occurring in a country.

Mexican Murals

Although the murals are shut to visitors, thought I would give you some background information as it is worth a little write-up. So, if you visit Chillán, make sure to stop by the Escuela México de Chillán (Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins No. 250) and check out the murals.

Painted in the school’s main staircase and library, the murals are by Mexican artists David Alfaro Siqueiros and Xavier Guerrero.

Siqueiros (1896-1974) was a Mexican-Socialist painter and the founder of “Mexican Muralism”. Siqueiros “sought to bridge national and universal art” with his deeply political works and renown for his large murals in frescos.

The school also has an interesting history as it was donated by the Mexican government to Chile before the Chillán Earthquake in 1939. The donation was a gesture of solidarity as the earthquake destroyed several provinces in Chile.

St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral

Several cathedrals on this site were destroyed and rebuilt over time to various earthquakes.

Venture in front of Plaza de Armas and you will bump into this impressive example of modernism, which is an icon and symbol of Chillán.

The previous cathedral was completely destroyed during the 1939 earthquake, which is when the building of this cathedral started.

St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral, Chillan, Chile
St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral

What is striking about this cathedral by architect Hernán Larraín Errázuriz is the ten arches.

The arches represent the prayer and the sign made with the hands at prayer, when hands are closed in an oval form. This Catholic cathedral is like no other that I’ve seen so far and definitely worth visiting.

St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral, Chillan, Chile
Cathedral view


Hostal Manatura (CH$16000 double with shared bathroom) includes comfy beds, heating, and electric blankets.

The accommodation is small but cosy. I think this would be quite cramped if all three rooms are occupied. Mainly as the living and kitchen areas are quite small. Luckily once again, we are the only visitors here for now.

Breakfast is included in the room’s price and is good. The owners are very friendly and accommodating.

Update (2017):

I’ve read recent TripAdvisor reviews on this Hostal, which are not great. People could not get into the accommodation after knocking for many hours and giving up, were forced to seek alternative accommodation elsewhere. So, I’m not sure if this Hostal is still operating or has undergone new management since 2011. This is a shame as we had a good experience here and great value-for-money.


Fuente Allemana (Avenida O’Higgins 250) – Although missing the hot springs is disappointing, this did force us to seek shelter in the warmth. So, what better place than a café? We did stumble on this excellent café/restaurant, which serves great coffee and meals at reasonable prices. Also on offer at good prices are delicious pastries and cakes that you simply cannot resist.

Visiting this café a couple of times, I noticed that it is always packed with many locals, so you know this must be good. Although the reason for this could also be that there are not many foreign tourists in this city. Apart from us, no other foreigners around during the stay.

Leaving Chillán

The rough plan from Chillán is to take the train to San Fernando and on to Santa Cruz for some wonderful wine tasting amongst Chile’s famous wineries.

I’m hoping that most sites but also wineries are open at this time of year…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Chile at Image Earth Travel.

Iglesia de las Carmelitas, Chillan, Chile
Gorgeous Celtic symbol – Iglesia de las Carmelitas
Iglesia de las Carmelitas, Chile, Chillan
Earthquake damage – an omen?
Iglesia de las Carmelitas, Chillan, Chile
Iglesia de las Carmelitas

6 responses to “Rural Chile – Chillán”

  1. Patty Avatar

    I am not that into Cathedrals, but I must admit, the Celtic symbol is indeed beautiful.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I have to admit, I much prefer older cathedrals to contemporary ones, but that’s just my preference.
      Absolutely love symbology and especially Celtic symbols – have one on the inside of my ankle. 😉 x

      1. Patty Avatar

        Yes, me too…the cathedrals preference, that is. I have a tribal tattoo as wedding ring 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Very cool, you need to post a photo of the tattoo somewhere and I’ll take a peek. 😉

      3. Patty Avatar

        Maybe I will sometime…funny story goes along with it, so yes, probably will do it 😉

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Sounds like a great blog brewing!

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